Preview to Sedgley Park (A) 18.02.12

17/02/2012

Macca, Montego Bay and the Mad Ferret - JRFC head to Manchester

 

With no success against the top sides this season to date, and 11 long weeks since they tasted victory on home soil, it's fair to say Sedgley Park are like the bar opposite the City of Manchester Stadium for the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Mad Ferret... (try it quickly in a Noel Gallagher accent)

Motivated Mancunian opposition will mean Jersey could face one of the stiffest tests of their 16-match winning run, ahead of a trio of games that look eminently winnable - Blaydon and Cambridge at home, either side of a trip to Barking. No easy games, of course, but still...

National One is often, and rightly described, as a league where anyone can beat anyone, but the Tigers have been an exception to this rule - one of only two teams in the whole league yet to get a result against top six opponents. Can anyone name the other? (see below)

News from the Jersey camp
At Jersey's St Peter ground last Saturday an entire fixture was moved quarter of a mile to an adjacent pitch with less than half an hour's notice. This included both teams, officials, assorted media, various posts and rope to mark out the playing area, and some rudimentary catering facilities. Oh, and upwards of 2,000 spectators.

Even those involved thought it was a tough ask, but it all slotted into place and the referee's whistle started the game as if he was signalling the departure of the 1500 Express Zug from Geneva to Zurich. It was one of those sporting collectors' items, like the number 11 batsman who hits a century, the keeper who scores a goal, or the day Brian Moore and Kyran Bracken played back row together for England.

Taking part in the only game of last weekend not to fall victim to the weather, Jersey are match-sharp, albeit nursing a few bumps and bruises. The result against Stourbridge may have been convincing, but this didn't mean it wasn't a physical contest.

At least the injury ledger seems to be in the black for DoR Ben Harvey, with a number of players close to a return to 1st XV colours. Having said that, few changes are likely to last weekend's squad, with the returning players perhaps waiting until March 3rd to be in genuine contention.

One definite absentee will be 17-year-old winger Chris Levesley, who plays for London & South East in the Under 18 divisional festival at Broadstreet RFC this weekend, hoping to impress the England selectors. He takes the best wishes of the club with him. [see 'stop press' below]

In Chris's absence winger Sam Fuller could get a first start at this level, while flanker Steve O'Brien and centre Dai Bishop are possible inclusions after recovering from injury.

Sedgley Park in 2011/12
Sedgley began the season impressively with a 39-24 win at Cambridge, and followed this up with another bonus-point victory against Tynedale. The only way was down from this point, and three successive defeats followed, against Macclesfield, Coventry and Fylde.

The middle part of the season has been a mixed bag for the Mancunians: a thumping win against the Bees, a 'Roses' success by a single point in the Dales (29-28), but also heavy losses to Ealing (38-8 during the Trailfinders' best form) and a fearful 61-17 gubbing at Tynedale in the last away trip of 2011.

January saw away wins at Cov and Bees, and a home defeat by Fylde before Blackheath came calling on January 28th.

In a way the two matches against 'Club' have told the story of the season for the Tigers. In October it was 41-34 to the men from SE London, a six tries to five thriller. January's game at Park Lane was equally tight - 15-13 to Sedge at half-time, and a 30-25 lead (including four SP tries) up until the 76th minute. That's when Club tied things up with a Dave Allen try, and with the last move the visitors scored a sixth try and snatched victory.

Summer 2011 saw several new faces at the club, notably the arrival of Henno Venter, a pillar of Jersey's pack last season but released to pastures new. Henno joined up with a former Coventry colleague Louis McGowan, joining from Rotherham, and Kiwi second-row Fraley Hopa, formerly of Biggar and North Harbour. These recruits joined the core of last season's pack, including another South African, Juan Crous, and captain Garth Dew in the back row. Dew is out for the season with a knee injury similar to the one sustained by Jersey skipper Paul Rodgers in October.

Some useful signings have also made an impact in the backs. Full back Gregg Smith (ex Liverpool SH) has done much of the place-kicking this season, with 74 points, neck-and-neck with Matthew Riley's 75. Other fresh talent from the local area included Jamie Harrison and Fergus Owens, who scored 13 and 19 tries respectively for Broughton Park and Vale of Lune last season. Harrison is top try-scorer so far this season, with 11, just ahead of centre Michael Dutton's nine. Former Sale man Chris Parrott, signed from Alghero in Italy, can play both fly half and centre.

Apart from the absent Dew, this is a pretty settled squad for the most part. Six players have played either 20 or 21 games including the entire front row of Nick Flynn, Richard Oxley and Dan Birchall. Lock McGowan and, in the backs, Harrison and Matt Riley, are the other stalwarts. Even the bench is quite settled, with prop Ben Black selected 17 times and unused only once, and the former Nuneaton hooker Scott Wright, another summer recruit, the ultimate super-sub - 20 appearances from 21 selections.

Coaching Sedgley Park is Richard Senior, a player at the club for 11 seasons and who in 2011 marked his 40th birthday (definite) and final appearance in Tigers' colours (probable).

Any Previous?
October 22nd 2012, the eve of the World Cup Final and two 'lower mid-table' sides face off at St Peter in front of a tidy crowd of 1,800, including a sizeable away contingent of approaching 150. This is how it panned out...

Jersey cruised to an ultimately comfortable victory in a game that, while not dirty, was marred by six yellow cards.

At one stage in the first half Jersey's 14 men were up against 12 from Sedgley Park following a bout of fighting that saw hookers Charlie Clyde-Smith and Richard Oxley carded along with Park's Adam Lewis.

Visiting skipper Garth Dew had already received an early yellow for killing the ball and in the second period Steve O'Brien (Jersey) and Matt Riley (Sedgley) were also ordered from the fray.

Donovan Sanders and James Copsey scored the first half tries that reflected the home team's dominance in building a 17-0 lead. Jersey also started the second half strongly, with Copsey crossing for his second within five minutes.

The visitors' best spell came in the middle of the second half when prop Nick Flynn and flanker Dew scored tries that rewarded some strong attacking play, briefly threatening Jersey's hegemony.

17-year-old debutant Chris Levesley was a lively presence throughout for Jersey and crossed the line twice in the second half only to be called back by the referee. But the home team secured their try bonus point with five minutes to play when Ed Dawson squeezed over in the corner from replacement Ross Broadfoot's pass. Mike Le Bourgeois maintained a perfect record with his touchline conversion, and the final score was 31-10.

Jersey: Copsey, Levesley, Bishop, Sanders, Dawson, Le Bourgeois, McCormack, Landick, Clyde-Smith, Evans, Hannay, Brownrigg, O'Brien, Thompson, Bell (capt). Replacements: Brennan, Kenwright, Trower, Broadfoot, Lang
Sedgley Park: Smith, Dutton, Wainwright, Riley, Harrison, Kohler, Runciman, Birchall, Oxley, Flynn, Hopa, McGowan, Lewis, Dew (capt), Crous. Replacements: Black, Wright, Woolley, Urmston, Owens.

Sedgley Park - a brief history
Sedgley Park is a district of Manchester about two miles north of the city centre and here, in 1932 at a public meeting in a temperance bar, of all places, the club began. The very first ground was a farmer's field in Whitefield, and the club has never actually played in Sedgley Park itself.

As a junior club in the days before leagues, Sedgley became a fixture in the Lancashire rugby union fraternity but then began to move to bigger things in the 1980s, which saw the opening of a new clubhouse and the arrival of league rugby. The club were at Level Eight from 1987-1994, but then began a meteoric rise that saw them arrive at Level Three by 2001, having been promoted that year, in tandem with champions Stourbridge, after a play-off game (of which more anon).

In 2004, Sedg went one better and reached Level Two. For five seasons the club rubbed shoulders with big names like Harlequins, Northampton Saints, Bristol, Leeds and London Welsh, before the reorganisation that created the Championship, a reduced league at Level Two down from 16 to 12 clubs, saw a return to the third tier.

Last season began badly for the Tigers, with no fewer than three forwards suffering season-ending injuries before the first league game had finished. The season was a roller-coaster affair, and at the end of April 2011 Sedgley occupied one of the relegation spots in National League One. However the Mancunians had a rearranged game still to play and delivered a crucial, nail-biting win against Macclesfield by 26-19 to secure their league status at the expense of Redruth. Steve Nutt scored a brace of tries.

Notable former players include Cristian Raducanu, the Romanian who represented his country at the inaugural World Cup, and two well-known names to Jersey fans - Kern Yates (who played 52 consecutive games in 2003/04) and Dave McCormack.

Tigers' Triv
The most notable game in recent years, certainly that I could find, was in 2000/01 when Sedgley met Launceston in the same promotion play-off as Jersey's clash with Loughborough last year - both teams had been runners-up in their leagues and were seeking a spot at Level Three.

We thought four weeks was a long time to wait between final league game and the play-off, but Sedgley Park had a six week gap until the game at the end of May. I'm not sure why, as Launceston also had a four-week gap - maybe the County Championship took precedence in those days?

The Tigers' team that day included Dave McCormack at half-back alongside the former Welsh international (four caps) Colin Stephens, who had delayed his honeymoon specially (Jamaica? "Well, to be fair, I says to her none of the boys would speak to me again...").

Raducanu played lock alongside Paul Arnold, now with Fylde, while in the back row Kern Yates and Richard Senior packed down on opposite flanks.

Stephens managed to keep his mind off Montego Bay and kicked 15 points, while 'Macca' was among the try scorers, and Sedg defeated the Cornishmen 40-23.

Many of the play-off protagonists, and other former players, will be gathering to watch this weekend's game, which should make for a lively atmosphere both during and after the match.

Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from the game through the following channels:
• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey's Sportscene from 6-7pm on Friday, and regular updates on Saturday afternoon (KO is at 2.30pm)
• Preview in Friday's JEP, and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
• Match report on Channel 103 on Saturday soon after the final whistle
• Report Sport on Channel TV at 6.15pm on Monday, and online

The Sedgley Park website also has loads of good stuff on it, including an excellent preview usually published later on Friday or first thing Saturday.

And Finally
Further to the earlier quiz: the only other Nat 1 team not to get a result against a top six club so far this season is Stourbridge. The loose term 'get a result' covers Blackheath, who haven't beaten a top six club, but achieved a 27-27 draw with Ealing in December.

STOP PRESS - Friday 5pm: Chris Levesley scored a try for London & South-East this afternoon at the Divisional Festival. L&SE came from behind to defeat the Midlands 34-28, and will play the South-West on Sunday.

Enjoy your weekend's rugby
Tom Innes

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